When you’re looking for that perfect performance to razzle and dazzle a crowd, it’s hard to go past someone performing with fire. From birthday parties and weddings, to corporate functions and festivals, fire performers are highly sought-after talent. With impressive flame manipulation skills comes great responsibility. Here are 6 things to know when hiring fire entertainment for your next event.
Every professional fire performer should have Public Liability Insurance, with additional fire coverage. Fire is generally not included as part of the base insurance policy and requires specific mention and increased cover. At Hoop Sparx, we make sure that all our fire performers are fully insured.
2. Risk Assessment & Management
Just like being on a construction site, every job location is different for an events performer. Some are inside, others are outside, some are more crowded than others. Each different site has its own safety/risk management implications. When bringing fire into a space there are safe work guidelines that need to be followed and risks that need to be assessed and managed. Hoop Sparx will provide a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) upon request and will address the hazards and risks; measures taken to control or minimise the risks; and specify how the controls will be implemented. In some cases, to complete an onsite risk assessment, early arrival may be necessary – especially for outdoor performances where the environment can change regularly and there may be trees or other infrastructure overhead. Things like wind speed and direction will need to be taken into account when selecting the best location for the performance on the night.
3. Fire Safety Person/s
When you hire a Hoop Sparx fire performer to come to your event, you are also hiring a Fire Safety person. The role of this person is to keep the audience/general public safe and support the fire performer in a number of ways. They will assist with setting up the safety zone perimeter and ensure that the audience stays on the correct side of it. They will oversee the fuel station, making sure that it is safe and contained, away from the crowd and children. The fuel station will be at a safe distance from where the props are lit and the fire safety person may assist with ensuring excess fuel is removed prior to lighting the prop. The Fire Safety person will assist the performer by taking hot props from them to extinguish, passing them new fueled props, or anything else that is needed to ensure the best performance and safety of the audience and the performer. The Fire Safety person’s sole focus is on preventing, managing, and responding to risk. They are more than a stage-hand, they are experienced with fire safety and are often fire performers themselves.
4. Tools of the Trade
When you hire a tradie to come fix something at your house, you are paying them for their knowledge, skills, and tools. Fire performers also supply these things when they come and performer with fire for your entertainment. There are a range of fire props that are available and different performers specialise in different props. These may include hula hoops, dragon staff, poi, fans, palm candles and more. Each prop requires regular maintenance. Before each show props should be checked, tightened, and ensured they are in safe working order. FIre wicks are one of the most often replaced components of a fire prop as each show and performance wears on the wick. These must be checked and maintained regularly.
Fuel is required for fire performing, and not every fuel is the same. A good quality fuel burns clean and bright, and doesn’t stink like kerosene. A fuel with a high flash point that is harder to ignite is preferred for spinning props. There are many different fuel types available. More suited for indoor gigs is fuel that produces less smoke, flames, and odour. Fuels for fire-eating, skin contact, and special effects tricks evaporate quickly, have a lower flash point, flammable vapour, don’t burn as long, and are expensive. Hoop Sparx fire performers use the correct fuel for the prop and the event location. With so many consumables, knowing what the best fuel for the job is, and making sure that props are in good working order requires experience and specialised knowledge. These are important things that to consider behind the scenes when you hire a professional fire performer.
5. Safety Equipment
There are a number of safety items that a performer should have as part of their tool kit. These items are for ensuring a safe show and managing risk associated with fire performing.
- Regularly maintained fire extinguisher
- LED rope light
- Fire safety blanket or wet cotton towels
- Fuel safe containers
- Spin off bucket/bag
A fire extinguisher on hand is vital for any fire performance, a dry powder one is best. This should be regularly maintained and in good working order. The fire safety person should be trained and comfortable with using an extinguisher if it is needed. An LED rope light (or similar) is great to use in creating a stage space and acts as an audience barrier guide.
When it comes to costuming, performers’ attire should be made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, leather, etc. These materials may still burn, however, they won’t melt to skin like synthetic fabrics will. Any accessories that could catch fire like wigs, feathers, tassels, etc. should be removed along with items that may be a catch point for props. Costumes should be well-fitted, anything too tight can restrict movement, but loose items are a safety hazard. It is also recommended that products like hairspray are not used as they can create a fire risk. To keep hair out of the way of the flame, lots of elastics and bobby pins tend to be used by fire performers with long hair.
Flame-resistant gear made from specialised materials may also be used for fire performers’ clothing, gloves, or sleeves. There is a lot of work that goes into creating fire-safe costume pieces and designs that complement the performer, the event, and the show.
Booking Professional Fire Entertainers
Professional fire entertainers have honed their craft for years. Generally, someone has spent 3 – 5 years building their skills to perform fire at events – which is about the same amount of time that someone goes to university to get a degree before entering the workforce. There is also the time that is spent in developing shows, rehearsals, and professional development by continually learning more moves, new props. etc.
There is so much that goes on behind the scenes of someone looking cool playing with fire, let alone a professional fire performance! All of these things are important to be aware of when you are hiring fire entertainment and performers for your events. It isn’t just an hour that you are paying for someone to be there, it’s all of the above and more.